Scientists pulverize smartphone in blender to reveal what's inside
In this Feb. 17, 2016 file photo an iPhone is seen in Washington. (AP / Carolyn Kaster, File)
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 10:47AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 15, 2019 10:52AM EDT
Warning: Don’t try this at home.
Researchers at a British university conducted an unusual science experiment to reveal the exact quantities of the multitude of metals and minerals that make up a smartphone: They put an iPhone in a blender.
Scientists at the University of Plymouth used the brute-force power of the blender to pulverize the phone, before adding sodium peroxide – an oxidizer – to the resulting powder. Then, they mixed it together in small crucibles at a temperature of 500 degrees Celsius.
The purpose of the project was to show the exact quantities of “conflict elements” – minerals including tin, tungsten and gold that some armed groups in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo use to finance their activities – that are contained in a single device.
A report from Amnesty International in 2016 said that the cobalt in some of the batteries of electronics made by companies including Apple, Samsung and Sony was dug up by Congolese miners and children under inhumane conditions.
Researchers found that the iPhone used in the experiment was made up of 33 grams of iron, 13 grams of silicon and 7 grams of chromium. It also contained 900 milligrams of tungsten, 70 milligrams of cobalt and 36 milligrams of gold.
“All of these need to be mined by extracting high value ores, which is putting a significant strain on the planet,” Arjan Dijkstra, a lecturer in igneous petrology at the University of Plymouth, said in a news release.
Scientists said that 10 to 15 kilograms of ore need to be mined to produce just a single iPhone.
They added that they hope the results of the experiment will “encourage greater recycling rates once the devices reach the end of their useful lives.”
According to a February filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple removed five smelters and refiners from its supply chain because they refused to participate in or complete a third-party audit to determine whether they met the company’s requirements on the responsible sourcing of minerals.